Alarm as filth takes over iconic Usenge beach

Usenge beach in Siaya County hosts at least 1,000 traders daily. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

The allure of Siaya county’s largest fish landing site is slowly fading away.

Usenge beach used to be clean but is nowadays an eyesore and a health hazard with mounds of uncollected garbage and pools of dirty water encircling fisherfolk and their customers.

Although the beach has been the centre of the fish trade in Nyanza and attracts dozens of visitors every day, its sanitation facilities have deteriorated.

Heaps of garbage have taken over the spaces where traders would spread their fish to dry before taking them to the market.

The beach which serves more than 1,000 traders and fishermen daily neither has a functional toilet nor water.

Jully Opwapo, a fishmonger at the beach said the filth has never been a deterrence to her customers.

As we walked towards Opwapo, a fisherman dashed to a nearby bush along the shoreline to answer a call of nature.

“We don’t have latrines or running water. We are forced to either buy or fetch from the lake,” Opwapo said.

She added that the situation is worse during morning hours when there are many buyers from other places.

John Ochieng, the vice-chairman of the Beach Management Unit, said the only latrine at the beach had to be locked as it was a health hazard.

He said water seeped into the latrines and they got filled up, and the raw sewage then flowed back to the beach.

“We don’t even know why we are paying taxes to the county government if they cannot even build proper sanitation facilities here,” said  Mercy Akinyi, a food vendor.

Last week, the Siaya County’s department of public health and sanitation issued a seven-day notice to the beach management to act on the poor sanitation.

“Take notice that under the provision of Public Health Act Cap 242 Section 118 and Regulation made thereunder, the Medical Officer of Health being satisfied of the existence of nuisance at Usenge Beach,” read the notice.

Evaline Wesonga, the public health officer said the Beach Management Unit is required to construct adequate pit latrines, a urinal unit and bathrooms.

It is also expected to ensure proper measures are put in place to maintain cleanliness.


Daily charges

Traders claim the county government charges them between Sh50 and Sh100 daily. They have now vowed to stop remitting the same until issues at hand are addressed.

“We will only pay taxes once we have water, toilets and a good road to the beach. Trading here has become difficult due to the stench from the garbage and the pit latrines that we don’t even have access to,” said Paul Okoth, a trader at the beach.

However, the area MCA Willis Ochieng, said money has been set aside for the construction of a modern toilet.

Enterprise and Industrial Development CEC Richard Mungla said his office wasn’t aware of the issues raised by the traders.

“They could be having problems but I am not aware because the concerns have not been reported to my office formally,” he added.

The beach has a fish auction centre that was built by the government at a cost of Sh10 million through the Economic Stimulus Package.